History of K-Pop: HyunA
One of K-Pop’s most prominent female soloists, HyunA has been a part of the industry for over a decade, growing immensely as an artist and receiving numerous accolades along the way. Let’s take a look at her extensive career, from the past to the present!
HyunA first stepped onto the K-Pop scene in 2007 under JYP Entertainment as a member of the Wonder Girls, one of K-Pop’s most revered girl groups of the second generation. Although she left the group after several months due to health reasons, she was part of the group’s original lineup and appeared in the group’s debut song “Irony.”
Even at the age of 14, HyunA had a distinct sound as a rapper—while it hadn’t yet evolved into her signature style, listeners can detect hints of her original sound in her current work, showing that her time as a member of the Wonder Girls, although brief, helped lay the foundations for the rest of her career.
After leaving the Wonder Girls, HyunA joined Cube Entertainment and debuted with girl group 4Minute in 2009, starting with the song “Hot Issue,” an upbeat dance-pop song with electro-pop influences. In her debut with 4Minute, HyunA can be heard growing more into her own style, raising her pitch slightly and sounding more emphatic than before.
Throughout 2009, HyunA continued to promote with 4Minute, in addition to making various appearances in collaboration with other artists, such as Navi and Brave Brothers. In early 2010, she made her debut as a soloist with the release of the song “Change,” a hip-hop-influenced song that not only showcased HyunA’s vocal style, but her skill as a dancer as well. Additionally, the song’s concept was somewhat different from 4Minute’s previous releases, appearing edgier and more risque.
Throughout 2010 and 2011, HyunA continued to promote with 4Minute, during which time the group released multiple singles, including “I My Me Mine,” “Why,” and “Mirror Mirror.” In particular, “Mirror Mirror” received attention for its choreography, which was seen as particularly provocative for the group and was banned from several music shows; because of this, 4Minute changed their choreography multiple times.
HyunA’s next major career move was her 2011 release of the album Bubble Pop, featuring a title track and corresponding music video of the same name. The catchy, vibrant love song was an instant hit, not only within South Korea, but also globally, with HyunA even becoming the first female solo K-Pop artist to surpass 100 million views on YouTube. Additionally, HyunA received international recognition for the song—for example, Spin Magazine placed the song ninth on a list titled “Best 20 Songs of 2011,” and Billboard Magazine listed HyunA as one of “21 Acts Under 21.”
Later that year, Cube Entertainment announced that HyunA would join forces with fellow Cube artist Hyunseung to create Trouble Maker, a co-ed unit. Together, the two artists released an eponymous mini-album, featuring a dance song of the same name. Once again, Trouble Maker’s work maintained a different style than that of 4Minute’s discography or HyunA’s solo releases by showing a mysterious, more sensual image, offering something different to fans and showing HyunA’s versatility as an artist.
In 2012, HyunA appeared alongside PSY in the viral hit “Gangnam Style,” which would shortly become the most viewed YouTube video in history. The video received widespread international attention for its amusing, outlandish scenes and satirical lyrics, and HyunA received recognition for her appearance in the video. Around the same time, PSY and HyunA released a version of “Gangnam Style” from a female perspective, titled “Oppa Is Just My Style.”
Later that year, continuing with the momentum of the summer, HyunA released her second mini-album, Melting, featuring title track “Ice Cream,” a collaboration with producers Brave Brothers. The video also featured a cameo from PSY and received international attention, once again breaking records for the number of views garnered shortly after its release.
In 2013, HyunA made several appearances in the U.S., performing at SXSW’s K-Pop Night Out in Austin, Texas and appearing in a Funny or Die sketch with British singer Rita Ora, filmed in Los Angeles. The skit joked about the importance of mastering your walk as a pop star.
Later that year, Trouble Maker made their second comeback with the release of the album Chemistry, featuring the single “Now,” another dark and mysterious song that received widespread attention and recognition. This comeback ended up being the group’s most recent one: in 2018, member Hyunseung enlisted in the military, meaning that he will be unable to work in the music industry for at least two more years. The song’s music video received attention for being darker, edgier, and more openly sexual than many K-Pop releases to date.
In 2014, HyunA released her third album, A Talk, featuring the single “Red,” another viral hit. Once again, HyunA received widespread recognition, this time for further crafting a unique brand as a pop star. That year, the music video for “Red” was featured on Rolling Stone’s list of the top 10 music videos of 2014.
The following year, HyunA made another comeback with the mini-album A+, which included the single “Because I’m The Best,” featuring Jung Ilhoon of BTOB.
In 2016, Cube Entertainment announced the disbandment of 4Minute, citing difficulty with contract renewal as a primary reason. While the other members of the group left Cube Entertainment, HyunA remained signed with the label and continued to promote as a solo artist, releasing her fifth mini-album A’wesome that year, featuring single “How’s This?”
In 2017, Cube Entertainment announced that HyunA would be featured in a new sub-unit called Triple H alongside two members of boy group PENTAGON, named Hui and E’Dawn (also known as Hyojong). Together, the group released the album 199X, featuring the single “365 Fresh,” a lively, retro-inspired song that showcases the members’ various talents. The music video, which pairs dark, brooding imagery about the characters’ struggles alongside colorful vignettes and joyful scenes, adds extra intrigue and complexity to the song.
Later that year, HyunA released her sixth mini-album, Following, including single “Babe,” another music video that proved layered and complex, pairing bright and innocent imagery with darker, more intense scenes.
Toward the end of the year, HyunA also released the single “Lip & Hip,” a song with a more unusual and experimental concept than her previous releases.
In July 2018, HyunA made another comeback with Triple H, this time with the release of album REtro Futurism. The album included single “Retro Future,” a retro-inspired song featuring a prominent beat, heavy bassline, and sampling from the work of Grandmaster Flash who is considered a pioneer of Hip-Hop in America.
The group promoted the song on several music shows, embodying a unique, experimental concept with elements of dance pop, hip-hop, and futuristic aesthetics. During the song’s promotion cycle, HyunA and fellow member E’Dawn announced that they had been dating since May 2016. Subsequently, Cube Entertainment canceled the remaining promotions for the song. Although dating news is often controversial in the K-Pop industry, with many idols fearing that their careers will suffer for it, HyunA stated that she wanted to be honest with her fans in the long run. In an Instagram post from August 2, she wrote that she wanted to continue working hard with a happy heart and that she had “nothing to hide, as I always have” (Soompi.com). Like always, HyunA proved that she’s not afraid to defy norms and live life on her own terms, regardless of what others may think.
In July, Cube Entertainment confirmed that HyunA will be making a solo comeback later this year with the release of another album, adding to her extensive discography. What kind of concepts do you hope to see from her in the future? Let us know in the comments below!